Word Confusion: Be versus Bee

Posted October 27, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I suspect this is another instance of the oblivious spellcheck, as I cannot imagine an author not understanding the difference in this word “confusion” of be versus bee.

The to be is ubiquitous and flavors almost every sentence written. If you don’t believe me, have a peek at the variety of words in the list of conjugations below!

Bee, of course, is another familiar word, although there may be some definitions with which you won’t be familiar. I’ve been involved in sewing and quilting bees, but the whole nautical aspect was an eye-opener for me.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Be Bee
Credit to: Dictionary.com: be and bee

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Beryllium is quite pretty, isn’t it?

A bee pollinating a flower

Image by OliBac from FRANCE [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This bee is taking a bath in pollen.

Part of Grammar:
Abbreviation; Noun; Prefix 1;
Verb 2, intransitive and linking

Third person present verb: is
Past tense: was
Past participle: been
Gerund or present participle: being

See Conjugations below.

Abbreviation; Noun 3, 4, 5, 6
Symbol for chemistry for beryllium

Bill of exchange, bill of entry

Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Engineering, Bank of England, bill of exchange, Board of Education, barium enema

Belgium (and its country code)

See “abbreviations” and “prefixes”

A native English prefix formerly used in the formation of verbs 1

  • [From nouns]:
    • To surround completely
    • Cover on all sides
    • To affect completely or excessively
    • To consider as or cause to be
    • To provide or cover with
  • [From verbs] At, for, against, on, or over

Verb, intransitive:
To exist or live
To take place; happen

  • Occur

To occupy a place or position

To continue or remain as before

To belong

  • Attend
  • Befall

Used as a copula to connect the subject with its predicate adjective, or predicate nominative, in order to describe, identify, or amplify the subject

Used as a copula to introduce or form interrogative or imperative sentences

[Used in the perfect or past perfect tenses only] To pay a visit

  • To go

Verb, linking:
Used with the present participle of another verb to form the progressive tense

Used with the present participle or infinitive of the principal verb to indicate future action

Used with the past participle of another verb to form the passive voice

Used in archaic or literary constructions with some intransitive verbs to form the perfect tense

Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

[In South Africa] Black Economic Empowerment

Any hymenopterous insect of the superfamily Apoidea, including social and solitary species of several families, as the bumblebees, honeybees, etc. 3

The common honeybee, Apis mellifera

Also called bee block 4

[Nautical] A piece of hardwood, bolted to the side of a bowsprit, through which to reeve stays

[Obsolete] A metal ring or bracelet

[Nautical] A small sheave with one cheek removed and the pulley and other cheek fastened flat to a boom or another spar, used for reeving outhauls or stay 5

A social gathering for a specific purpose, as to carry out a communal task or hold competitions 6


See “abbreviations” and “prefixes”


  • [From nouns]:
    • befog
    • bedazzle
    • befool
    • befriend
    • bejewel
  • [From verbs]
    • become
    • besiege
    • bedaub
    • bewail
    • berate
  • Verb, intransitive:
    “To be or not to be.” – Shakespeare

    “I think, therefore I am, not all that is can be understood.” – Shakespeare

    The wedding was last week.

    The book is on the table.

    Let things be.

    May good fortune be with you.

    Martha is tall.

    Is that right?

    Be quiet!

    Don’t be facetious.

    Have you been to Spain?

    My birthday was last Thursday.

    Verb, linking:
    I am waiting.

    She is visiting there next week.

    He is to see me today.

    The date was fixed.

    It must be done.

    He is come.

    Agamemnon to the wars is gone.


    I’m allergic to bees.

    Bees pollinate flowers and produce honey.

    A cheek with a sheave in it is secured on the top side of the bees, on each side, to form a lead for the fore guys.

    Plant a pollinator garden, build a bee block, or simply reduce your pesticide use.

    a husking bee

    a spelling bee

    a quilting bee

    Conjugations for Be
    Infinitive to be
    Present Singular
    1st person am
    2nd person are
    [Archaic] art
    3rd person is
    Present Plural are
    Past Singular
    1st person was
    2nd person were
    [Archaic][Archaic] wast
    3rd person was
    Past Plural were
    Present Subjunctive be
    Past Subjunctive Singular
    1st person were
    2nd person were
    [Archaic] wert
    3rd person were
    Past Subjunctive Plural were
    Present Participle being
    Progressive Participle being
    Gerund being
    Past Participle been
    Perfect Participle been
    Imperative be
    Adjective: being
    Conjunction: being
    Noun: being
    Adjective: beelike
    History of the Word:
    1 Middle English, Old English be-, bi-, is an unstressed form of

    2 Old English beon, beom, bion meaning be, exist, come to be, become, and happen come from the Proto-Germanic biju-, a b-root, meaning I am, I will be. This “b-root” (from PIE root bheue- meaning to be, exist, grow, and come into being) is represented by be and the am/was verb (itself a conglomerate). Both were two distinct verbs which merged to become the modern verb to be and has caused the to be being the most irregular verb and the most common in Modern English.

    1 First known use is before 1000.

    Middle English be or the Old English bīo or bēo. It’s related to the Dutch bij; Old Saxon or bini; Old High German bīa, or bini; the German Biene; and, Old Norse .

    It may be used with other suffixes: Lithuanian bìtė, OPruss bitte, OCS b&icaron;chela, or Old Irish bech.

    2 First known use is before 1050.

    Middle English beh meaning ring, Old English bēag, bēah. It’s related to Old Frisian bāg, Old Saxon, Middle Low German bōg, Old High German boug, Old Norse baugr, and Sanskrit bhoga-.

    3 Old English bēag is related to Old High German boug meaning ring, Old Norse bogi meaning a bow.

    6 Perhaps from dialect bean meaning neighborly help, from Old English bēn meaning boon.

    C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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